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Texas A&M Football

Trusting the Process: Fisher focused on ending season full of improvement on high note

December 30, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The process. Stepping stones. Laying a foundation. Call it whatever you want. The bottom line is there are typically many levels to reach in building an elite football program.

Texas A&M has reached some levels and taken some steps in that direction in its first season under coach Jimbo Fisher.

And as the Aggies prepare to face North Carolina State on Monday night in the Gator Bowl, Fisher’s construction project would seem right on schedule. That is, if he had one.

“I don't have a set schedule where you have to be, what you have to be,” Fisher said on Sunday. “So many things can go up and down. Years can vary. Texas A&M, the culture we want to build, the way we want to play with physicality, toughness, and competitiveness, the detail. From that standpoint, that's how the foundation starts.”

“I think it's been a tremendously successful year this year. We've won some games and broke some streaks, let a couple get away. The more important thing was developing the culture of how we play, the way we think, the way we expect to win at Texas A&M.”

In one season, Fisher has made the Aggies’ more physical which is illustrated by A&M’s No. 29 national ranking in rushing offense and No. 2 ranking in rushing defense.

The Aggies have a chance to post nine victories for the first time since Johnny Manziel left in 2013. They were 3-1 in November and defeated LSU. With a win in the Gator Bowl, they could finish the season ranked among the nation’s Top 15 for the first time since 2012.

“More importantly, it's in regard of how you play, not always your results early in your development of where you're at.”
- A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher 

“If you're in the Top 20, that's great,” Fisher said. “Top 15, top 20. Heck, you want to win the whole thing. This game (Gator Bowl) is an important game in that regard. More importantly, it's in regard of how you play, not always your results early in your development of where you're at.”

To reach the next step, the Aggies must devise a strategy to contain NC State quarterback Ryan Finley and also find a way to fully exploit the Wolf Pack’s issues in pass defense.

Like NC State (9-3), Texas A&M has struggled in pass coverage. The Aggies have allowed more than 240 passing yards in seven games this season.

Further, they’re without senior safety Donovan Wilson, who is the Aggies’ best defensive back.

That’s obviously not a best case scenario for facing Finley, who has thrown for 3,789 yards to rank fifth in the nation in passing. Finley has exceeded 300 passing yards and has thrown multiple touchdown passes in eight games.

Fisher is all-too-well aware of Finley’s passing prowess. He faced Finley in 2017 and 2016 as coach at Florida State. Last year Finley passed for 230 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-21 victory over Fisher’s Seminoles. The year before Finley threw for 304 yards and a score in a 24-20 Florida State victory.

“This guy's is really good. I went against him. I know him. This guy is a heck of a player,” Fisher said. “He’s very methodical. Surgical. How he does things understands how to play. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge. 

“Hopefully, we can get some pressure somehow. We’re going to have to find ways we’re going to have to mix looks up, we’re going to have to cover some guys and make plays. It’s going to be a great challenge. I’m anxious to see us play.”

A strong pass rush certainly would help the Aggies’ beleaguered secondary. And A&M has posted 35 sacks. 

Rey Romo, TexAgs
The A&M pass rush will need to step better to take pressure off of the Aggies’ beleaguered secondary. 

However, North Carolina State’s offensive line, which features Remington Award-winning center Garrett Bradbury and All-American Terrone Prescod, has allowed just nine sacks — the fourth-lowest total in the nation. 

“They got a good O-line,” A&M senior defensive end Landis Durham said. “Not only do they have athletes at receiver, but even the quarterback can throw them open. Seen some really promising looking third downs they converted on. It will be a big deal for us to get some pressure, make some decisions really quickly.”

The Aggies will also try to confuse Finley with disguised coverages. But he’s anticipating that.

“I think they disguise coverage very well,” Finley said. “That's something I think they take a lot of pride in, is disguising coverage, giving a lot of different looks for the quarterback. That's something that as a quarterback group we've been working very hard on, being able to identify that.”

“But it's going to be about doing what we do, doing that well, being balanced, being able to run the ball, converting on third down. When we get down to the red zone, which I hope we're there a lot, we're going to be able to execute in the red zone. We got some cool stuff. We're excited to attack them.”

Of course, A&M can attack, too. The Aggies will challenge NC State’s solid run defense with running back Trayveon Williams, who needs 169 yards to set the single-season A&M rushing record.

However, the Aggies likely will attempt to more frequently exploit NC State’s woeful pass defense, which is ranked 121st in the nation.

There is great potential for quarterback Kellen Mond to hook up with receivers Quartney Davis, Jhamon Ausbon and Kendrick Rogers for big plays. However, there may be even more opportunities for All-American tight end Jace Sternberger. NC State hasn’t seen many high-caliber tight ends. Sternberger admitted he was eager to have a chance make plays against the Wolf Pack.

“A little bit, but at the same time I know you have to treat every game like it’s your last,” he said. “It’s very exciting to see that they put up that number (121st). They know that’s their weakness and that they’re going to try to stop us because we have a very strong passing game.”

It may be strong enough to propel the Aggies to their ninth victory. Which, of course, could be another step in the process of building to elite status.

Discussion from...

Trusting the Process: Fisher focused on ending season full of improvement on high note

10,454 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 5 yr ago by merch
Mr. Black
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Good article, Olin! As for the matchup with NC State, it oughta be a shootout, with both offenses scoring some points. However, Trayveon gives us the edge, he's elite and Coach Fisher will likely call plays that exploit NC State's rush defense especially since their top tackler is sitting out. I expect Trayveon, Mond and Sternberger to all have big days. BTHO NC State!
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Sounds like they have a few trick plays they plan on running.
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